ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The production of the know-how of Odissi dance in urban Odisha in the 2020ies – reconfigurations and stakes


Curda Barbara - UCA (université Clermont Auvergne), laboratory ACTé (EA4281), Clermont-Ferrand, France


33 – Transmitting know-how in a shifting world – the case of contemporary India


 In the past two decades, practitioners of the “Indian classical dance” Odissi in the Indian State Odisha, and more particularly in its urban settings, have been exposed to many rapid social, economical, technological, urban developments. The economic growth of this period, the evolution of cultural political agendas, have generated new ways of obtaining symbolic as well as economic rewards through dance activity. There are new funding schemes by government bodies supporting the organisation of dance festivals as well as the creation of dance productions, but also, new motives for private sponsors to support dance activity. In addition, the technological revolution has modified interpersonal relationships and economic transactions between dancers, dance teachers, and the musicians specialised in Odissi dance accompaniment, as dance practice, both in the classroom and in the theatre, increasingly relies on pre-recorded music.

Implicit to the question of what changes occurred in the modalities of production of the dance is the question of the agency of those who are involved into its practices. How are these modifications linked to reconfigurations of power relations between practitioners belonging to different socio-economic backgrounds? To specific ways of practising, transmitting, but also showcasing and apprehending the dance’s know-how? This paper will analyse selected case examples, and thereby highlight some of the processes that are at work in particular situations.